Interview with Harrison Stanley Cammish

Title

Interview with Harrison Stanley Cammish

Description

Harrison Cammish was born in Scarborough in 1923, and when he was fourteen, he became an apprentice carpenter and joiner, and when war broke out, he joined the Air Training Corps, and the Home Guard, who gave him a rifle and forty rounds of ammunition. At the age of eighteen he joined the RAF for aircrew duties and was sent to RAF Cardington for selection and training. He was sent home with his RAF number to await call up. He was sent to RAF St Athan via Padgate and Blackpool to train as a flight engineer. He did his heavy conversion and was posted to 50 Squadron at RAF Skellingthorpe. On his sixteenth operation he had a premonition that as he was called to do the operation at the last minute that he was not going to be happy with the flight. They were just short of the target and their aircraft was hit by a night fighter. He baled out and landed in occupied France. Heading west along a railway line, he came to a small station where he knocked on the office door from where he was taken to a nearby cottage. After arriving at Toulouse ready to cross into Spain he and his comrades were attacked by the Germans. After a narrow escape over the mountains, he made it into Spain and was put in contact with the British consulate. He was repatriated back to the UK via Gibraltar, and after leave and a refresher course he was posted to a Mosquito training unit to train crews on the Merlin engine. He ended up at RAF Charmy Down near Bath to do a flying control course, where he met his future wife. His last posting was to RAF Dishforth and he was demobbed from there. He decided not to remain in the RAF but to go back into civilian life, eventually emigrating to New Zealand in 1956.

Date

2018-05-01

Temporal Coverage

Language

Type

Format

00:50:33 audio recording

Conforms To

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Contributor

Identifier

ACammishHS180501

Transcription

JB: That should be recording. This interview is being carried out for the International Bomber Command Centre. The date is the 1st of May 2018. The interviewer is Jennifer Barraclough. The interviewee is Mr Harry Cammish. The interview is being carried out at Mr Cammish’s home in Orewa near Auckland. Ok, Mr Cammish. Thank you very much for taking part. Can you tell me a bit about your earlier life? How you came to, and then how you came to join up?
HC: Yeah. Well, my name is Harrison Stanley Cammish. I was born in Scarborough, Yorkshire in 1923. I was the youngest of a family of four. I had three elder sisters. I was the only boy. Two of my sisters actually joined the WAAF during the war. When I was fourteen years of age I was apprenticed as a carpenter and joiner in Scarborough, and was happily learning the trade when war broke out in 1939. I joined the Air Training Corps and I also joined the Home Guard. And the Home Guard gave me a rifle and forty rounds of ammunition and I had to patrol the coastline and keep England safe from the enemy. My mother would never enter my bedroom once I’d got the rifle and forty rounds of ammunition. That was it. She wouldn’t come in to my bedroom anymore. When war broke out in 1939, as I say, I joined the Air Training Corps and the Home Guard. And when I turned eighteen I, I volunteered for aircrew duties and I was sent down to a place in Bedfordshire. Cardington, I think the place was, for a three day course, selection board, and health and testing type of thing and they sent me home with an Air Force number. I was in the Air Force from that, from that day onwards. Sent me home to await call up. I was called up late, in the middle of 1942, and I went to a place called Padgate in Lancashire where we got kitted out with all our Air Force gear. From there we went to Blackpool where we had foot drill, bashing up and down the promenade there, learning how to march in time and one thing and another. And after that I got sent down to St Athan. St Athans in South Wales, where for the first time I learned that I was going to be trained as a flight engineer. The rest of the section that was with me, we’d never heard of flight engineers before but it appears that it was, we took place of the second pilot because there were so many instruments and gauges to watch that they needed another pair of eyes. I didn’t, we all, first of all did a flight mechanics course which lasted quite a few weeks. And at the end of the course, they decided to give us forty eight hours leave which was no good to me. No way could I get up to Yorkshire from St Athans in South Wales in forty eight hours so it was a case of just staying on the camp ‘til the next course started. Some of the boys that I was with didn’t want to go through all this technical training. They wanted to be flying so they volunteered to go as straight air gunners which was only a six weeks course. So, we lost a few of our section over the period of training. On the completion of the flight engineer’s course I was posted to a Heavy Conversion Unit in Lincolnshire where for the first time I met the other members who I were going to crew up with. There was a Canadian, there was two cockneys and a couple of Englishmen and we made up the crew and having done a few circuits and bumps we were posted to the operational station, 50 Squadron at Skellingthorpe. The procedure when a new crew arrives at an aerodrome is for the pilot to go with another experienced crew for a little bit of know-how but to my horror I was told that I was going to take the place of an engineer who was sick. So, I was the first of the crew to fly on operations. So, I had one, I had one op above the rest of the crew. On our third operation we were about to take off with a full bomb load and tearing down the runway the pilot lost control and we skidded off the runway and slammed into one of the hangars. Now, from this moment onwards I, I don’t have any recollection of what actually happened, but from what I was told afterwards I got out of the aircraft and took off across the airfield, climbed over the perimeter fence, went down the country lane, and the first cottage I went to I, I knocked on the door and there was an elderly couple lived there. And I told them that I’d just come from a crashed bomber and it was going to explode any minute which must have put panic in to the old couple. Anyhow, they sat me down on the settee and made me a cup of tea while the elderly gentleman went and told the policeman that there was an aircrew member in his house that had just come from a bomber. A crashed bomber. Well, the next minute the ambulance came flying down from the station and picked me up and they’d been looking for the, they’d been looking for the engineer. They’d got all the others in to the military hospital but there was the engineer missing. Then of course when they got the call from this local body, bobby down in the village that was it and I duly arrived at the military hospital after all the other fellas had been. Had been in there. When I sort of regained my full mind I,I was in the same ward as the rear gunner was and unfortunately for the poor chap he’d suffered terrible burns and all I could see was his two eyes and his fingertips peering through the bandages. And with it being a military hospital anybody that was capable of walking and that had to look after the other members in the ward and it was my job to attend to his toiletries and one thing and another. Anyhow, I, I recovered sufficiently to go back to the station and the wing commander said to me, ‘Well, Cammish, I suppose you want leave.’ And I said, ‘Well, sir, I haven’t had any leave for nine months. My mother’s never seen me since I left home.’ ‘Well,’ he said, ‘Before you, before you go,’ he said, ‘We want you to go up for a little flight.’ And I thought oh dear. And he said, ‘There’s a crew about to take off on a night flying test and we want you to go down there and join the crew.’ So, I, I went to the dispersal unit and the crew was waiting for me. I think it was a bit of a put-up job myself. The crew was waiting for me and, and we took off and the pilot said, ‘Come up to the front,’ where the engineers are, ‘Come up to the front. Take up your position.’ And I said, horrors upon horrors we were taking off on the same runway as what we’d crashed and over to the left was this wrecked hammer line with a big hole because it had exploded after we, after we left and left quite a big hole. So anyhow, I went. I went home on leave and here was, here was a mother’s son. I’d put on about another stone. I was a sergeant in uniform. It took her all her time for mum to recognise me. I had a nice leave and reported back to the squadron and I thought I’d be sent back to the training unit to pick up another crew. But the commanding officer thought no I’d stay on the squadron as a substitute engineer for any other engineers that weren’t fit to fly. It wasn’t a very pleasant job because the crews, a crew is like a family. They rely on one another and trust one another and the stranger amongst them isn’t quite accepted by them. So it wasn’t, it wasn’t a very nice job. I had three different crews in a very short time. Anyhow, on the sixteenth operation I, well I wasn’t, I wasn’t posted for this sixteenth operation. I was getting set to have a night out in Lincoln and I got the call, ‘You’re needed to get into your gear. There’s an engineer been taken sick,’ or something. And, ‘Get into your gear.’ And it was such short notice it was, and I went to pick up my flying gear and I had a premonition. I had a funny feeling in my stomach and I had a premonition. I thought I’m not very happy about this but there’s nothing you can do about it so I joined the crew. I didn’t even know the names of the crew. I only knew the pilot’s name because it was such last minute orders. Anyhow, we, we got airborne. Everything seemed to be going all right. We weren’t far short of the target when we got attacked by a night fighter and the first thing we knew was the whole aircraft shuddered and we went out of control in a dive. The pilot’s controls were useless and the port wing was, was burning like fury so it was time to leave the aircraft. The bomb aimer, who was in the nose couldn’t get the hatch open and the pilot was kicking me on the back, ‘Hurry up. Hurry up,’ but I couldn’t do much about it. I had to wait for the bomb aimer to go. The next minute the shaft opened and out went the bomb aimer and out went I after him. And from all the bangs and rattles and crashes and fires and one thing and another it was absolute peace and quiet floating down in the parachute. I did hear the fighter droning around and I saw the bomber explode on the ground. I landed in about two feet of snow because it was winter time and took off the parachute, bundled it all into a heap and took off because our escape lectures always told you to get as far away from your landing as possible. So, I took off and headed in a westerly direction and I came across a railway line and I thought well it’ll be easier walking on the railway lines than, than through the fields and paddocks. But in those days, we had the early type suede flying boots and there’s no way you can walk long distances especially on, on a railway line. And I heard, I heard the toot of a train in the distance and I thought well if this is a goods train, a slow-moving train now’s my chance to get as far as possible from it. But it was an express train and it went past me about ninety miles an hour so there was no chance of getting on that. Anyhow, I kept walking for a several of hours and I eventually came to a small station. I didn’t know whether we were in Germany or in France to be quite honest but I saw the name on the board. Embermenil it was. Embermenil. And I thought well that doesn’t sound German and I peered through the window and there was a fellow in uniform sitting over the desk and he didn’t look German either so I thought well, I’ll risk it. So, I went in to the, opened the door and went in to the office and he looked up at me. You can imagine his surprise seeing an Air Force man in flying gear standing at the doorway and I told him, ‘RAF. RAF.’ And he put his finger up to his mouth and he said, ‘Shhhh Bosch. Bosch.’ So, I gather there was some Germans somewhere in the vicinity. And he, he took me in to the village, knocked on the door of the cottage and the door opened and he said something in French to the fella and they dragged me into the house and he went back to the station. And this was, they looked, there was only two rooms, it was a small cottage and they were obviously a farm labourer of some sort and the wife wanted to know where I’d left my parachute. She was after the silk obviously, and I couldn’t tell her where it was. My French lessons had long, long since vanished but she made, she made the expected, ‘Parachute.’ Anyhow, they took, I took all my flying gear off and I had a nice silk vest underneath and silk pants and the three of us shared the same bed ‘til the next morning [laughs] And I was, I was, the next morning the farm labourer went out and he, he came back and, and he was, I, I got the message that one of the crew was dead. One of the crew was dead. More, more, more. One of you more. And there was also he brought a poster back which the Germans were pinning up all over the place, “Ten thousand franc reward for any information leading to the capture of any airmen.” So, ten thousand francs was a lot of money to a poor hardworking labourer. Well, to anyone in France but nobody, nobody gave me away and I was there for a couple of days and then a fella came riding up on a bike and he came in to the cottage and he spoke good English and he wanted to know, A my full name, B my number, C where I was stationed, D what the target was. He wanted to know everything under the sun and then of course when he came to asking me the names of the crew I said, ‘I don’t know the names of the crew. I only knew the name of the pilot.’ Which was a bit dicey. I mean they were very suspicious. The Germans it appears had a habit of dressing someone up in Air Force uniform and then pretending they’d been shot down and then follow the escape routes right the way through and then turn around and capture the whole escape route. So, so they were, they were very, so the name, rank and number disappeared in the thin air. I told him everything I could. Even where I was born. And they must have been in touch with London because he came back a couple of days later and said, ‘Right. We’ll be escorting you to the next line.’ And he said, what, ‘We’ll send you a guide,’ and he said, ‘The guide will never walk alongside you. He will always be ahead of you and if he gets caught you get away and if you get caught he gets away.’ Which seemed fair enough to me. So, in the main time the railway man give me one of his spare uniforms. A thin railway porter’s uniform and here it was the middle [laughs] the middle of winter. I was never warm from that day onwards. I, anyhow, the guide duly arrived and we, we caught the train to the next, the next place, and it was Lunéville. Lunéville. And I was, I was billeted with a couple of old ladies that had, looked like a millinery shop to me and in this place, I was taken out and photographed and an identification card was given to me and I was, I was supposed to be a painter that’s on war work [laughs] The photograph was good but the rest of it was all foreign to me and from there, from that place I was escorted to Nancy. Nancy. And believe it or not I was, I was living in a policeman’s, a high, he was a high-ranking officer because he was taking me around in his car which had got a gas balloon on top of it in those days. And he which, when you come to think of it from a lowly labourer to a big high-ranking officer in the police force it just goes to show that there was a lot of Frenchmen who were prepared to put their neck out to help. To help us Air Force blokes get away. And from there, from his place I went out on to a farm. Mazerolles. Mazerolles. Named that. I went out on to the farm and the farmer, he was the head of the Resistance movement in that area and his wardrobe was full of guns and hand grenades and everything under the sun. And the Germans used to come daily to collect their meat and milk from him and I’d be sitting behind the curtains watching them and, and, he, he used to say to me, well funnily enough his boy could speak a little bit of English. They were teaching them at school. And, and he said he wouldn’t be taken alive. No way. He’d and he said that funnily enough he said all the Germans in this area are the oldies. The retired ones. They don’t, they don’t want to fight and they’ve told him that when the second front starts they’ll all surrender. They don’t want to be killed. They’ll all surrender because they knew very well he had something to do with the Resistance. And I helped him kill, kill the pig for the black market while I was there. The thing that they fed me most on was potatoes and milk. Potatoes and milk. I’m fed, I was fed up of the sight of potatoes and milk by the time I left the farm. From there, let me see. Oh, that’s right from there we went, went on to Paris and I was stationed in a very nice house overlooking, well, I could see the Eiffel tower out of the bedroom window and I was moving around Paris. One exciting incident, I was moving around Paris and I was on the Underground, Metro and the guide was at the front of the train coach and I was at the back and keeping my eye on him and horror upon horrors four German soldiers got in with rifles slung over the shoulders and I’m standing behind one of them and his rifle butt was hitting me in the stomach. And here’s me trying to do everything possible to not attract attention when this little old lady that was sitting down wanted to know the name of the station that we passed through and I knew she was asking me the name. She was pulling my jacket and [unclear]. And I was doing, that was the first time I’ve ever felt like hitting a little old lady. Luckily enough the guide got out and I jumped, I jumped out with him and, and everything turned out alright. And then the next, the next trip was from Paris to Toulouse in the south of France and I duly, I duly followed the guide. He gave me the tickets and I went and sat in this compartment and he went and sat in one further down. It was, it was a corridor train and right inside the train itself, at the entrance was this German soldier with his automatic machine gun slung across his chest. He was obviously on railway duty and I’m sitting in the compartment when the ticket collector came around. What, what the performance was you got into a corner and you pretended you were asleep. You didn’t look at anybody. You just kept yourself to yourself. And the ticket collector came in and I gave him the ticket and obviously there was some, something not right, I don’t know what it was and he started speaking to me and of course I didn’t know what on earth he was on about. And before I could say boo the guide who was, must have been watching all this he popped his head in to the compartment and he said something like. ‘Anglais aviateur.’ And the ticket collector snapped the ticket, went out, shut the door and all these people, there was about another eight people in the compartment they never said a word from Paris all the way down to Toulouse. They never said a word. They never looked at me. The never did anything and they could have opened that door and called the German in and collected the ten thousand francs reward if they’d wanted. Anyhow, I, we eventually arrived at Toulouse and we, we took, we took a train. Well, there was another guide came along. I’ve got to think about this. There was another guide came along and we went on another train tracking down the foot of the Pyrenees. We stopped at a little small place and he told me to get out and I got out and there was, there was a group oh about twenty or so people hanging around there and I saw these, these guides with their sten guns over their shoulder and they, they ushered us all together and we went for a short walk up the mountains and into a big shed. And they more or less told us that first thing in the morning we’d be off over the mountains and they gave us something to eat which was very rare. I’d had very little to eat and drink. And so we were, we were sitting. I’d taken my shoes off because they were quite uncomfortable and it was dark but I could hear American voices talking and I thought oh there must, it must be a whole group that’s going over the mountains. And I don’t know how long it was but the next minute there was bursting of automatic fire. Bullets flying everywhere and one of the guards came in and said, ‘Bosch. Bosch.’ You know, ‘Get out. Get out.’ So, everybody started running for the door and I’m trying to get my shoes on. I was, I think I was, I think I was the last man out. Out of the shed. I didn’t know where I, which direction I was going. I was just running and there was one or two of them sitting around, you know with their hands up. And I thought, a little voice said, well Harry, you’ve got this far. You might as well go the rest. So, I kept pounding on and I don’t know what happened to them. The rest of them got caught of course but I don’t know why they missed me. They had dogs with them. Anyhow, I was in the mountains for, that was one day, one night. Two days. Two nights. Three days and two nights I think it was before, and course walking up mountain after mountain you could look back and you could see your foot prints in the snow. And I’ve often thought afterwards why on earth didn’t the Germans catch me? You could look back and see your footprints right the way miles back. But somebody was looking after me alright that time. And I’d gone over one mountain and down below I could see the green fields and I thought oh this is it. And it takes as much to get down a steep hill as it does to climb up them and especially if you keep sinking in the snow all the time. In the morning the snow would be quite slippery and you’d take one pace up and two paces backwards and by mid-morning you’d be up to your calves in it and then by late afternoon well you were really trying to struggle to get ahead. Anyhow, I got, I got down the hill and there was a, there was a fella looking after goats by the, I really have to try and think about this. Was it goats or sheep? It doesn’t really matter. He was looking after them and I said, ‘Spain?’ And to this day I remember him saying, ‘Mais oui, monsieur. Spain.’ And I thought I’ve gone around in a circle. I’m still in France. I thought, horror of horrors. Anyhow, on one of the brick walls I saw this big painting of “Viva Franco.” So, I knew very well I’d, I’d made it to Spain and I staggered. He didn’t bother to help me or anything and I staggered down in to the local village there and the policeman with his big black hat came out and took me in to the cells. So, I was inside the jail but obviously the condition I was in my lips were swollen, my fingers were all swollen. I had frostbite in my feet. He, he got somebody in to look after me but I couldn’t drink. I couldn’t do anything. I was stuffing snow in my mouth over the mountains just to keep from getting dry. And anyhow I, I spent about three days in this little village. What was that? Viella. Viella. That was it. Viella, in Spain. I spent three days and it was a village that was snowbound from the rest of the country by all accounts. But someone must have got in touch with the English Consulate because I was, from the jail I went to live in the only, stay in the only hotel in the place and I was told that you know whatever I wanted I could have. They always had plenty of wine to give away so, and I wasn’t a wine drinker in those days but I am [laughs] I soon learned. Diamante and Monopole was the best two wines [laughs] and, and I gradually, oh and there was, in the village was, was a couple of German deserters and they followed me about like sheep because they didn’t have any money and I didn’t want them anywhere near me because a lot of the Spanish were very pro-German. Especially the higher up. The officials. The working class people were like the working class people everywhere. They’d give you help and this, that and the other and I spent I don’t know how many days it’s so long ago now but I spent a few days in [pause] And I remember one incident. I took the bottle of wine down to the, to the river and I dropped off to sleep with siesta time and when I woke up again the wine was still intact, the money I had, pesetas was still intact. Nobody, nobody would touch it and the policeman, he came to me and he said, ‘We’re walking out now. We’re going. The snow has thawed enough for us to get over the top.’ So, I said, I said. ‘Oh righto. Righto.’ So, we’re, I’m trudging behind him still with this porter’s uniform on, still will these patent leather shoes on which [laughs] I’m, I’m coming up over the hill and I wasn’t too happy with him. He didn’t smile or anything like that and I wasn’t very happy and I got the impression he might be going to pop me off in the snow and just forget about it you see. You get all sorts of impressions. So, I kept close behind him because he was smaller than me and I’m sure I could have overpowered him and, and he took off his rifle off his shoulder and I thought get ready, and he offered it to me. He’d seen a rabbit and he wanted me to have a pot shot at the rabbit [laughs] So once that happened I was quite happy then. I knew I was quite safe, and we got over the mountains in to, oh I forget the name. I forget the name of the first place I got to and here was, here was a representative of the British Embassy waiting for me. And of course, he looked at me [laughs] and we went shopping and I had a real nice outfit. Shirt, trousers, sports coat but they had difficulty finding a size nine shoe [laughs] Yeah. Anyhow, there I was dressed up to kill and he took, he took me out for a meal. We went out for this meal and I’m thinking these, these little bits of meat’s lovely. It wasn’t until afterwards I found out I’d been eating snails [laughs] but they were, they tasted very nice. Then I went down to [pause] where was it? I forget the name. It was, it was, it was a sort of a holding place and that’s where I met some Americans that had come over the top and there was a whole group of them in, in this hotel and it was the first time ever that I think that an RAF man had more money in his pocket than the Americans had [laughs] But the pay clerk at the British Embassy said to me, ‘How long is it since you’ve been paid?’ And I said, ‘Thirteen weeks.’ And he said, ‘Oh, and what is your pay?’ And I told him and he said, ‘Well, when, when you’re wanting a bit of cash come in and see me.’ And he was a, he was a man from Hull which is just a few miles down below Scarborough and he was a Yorkshireman and I think he had a bit of a guilty complex that here he was in a nice country because there was lights, there was food, there was fruit. There was everything you could dream of and I think he had a bit of a guilty conscience that he was living like that and here was us in England suffering bombing and such like. So, I used to go regularly and collect my two hundred and fifty peseta and I, I’d go out, go out with the Americans and we would go into a bar and the only thing I can order was, ‘Cerveza. Cerveza.’ ‘Beer. Beer. Beer.’ Anyhow, I thought I’d better take some souvenirs. I’d better take some souvenirs home with me. So, I, I got some cigars for my dad. I got some 4711 for my mother and then I thought well, stockings. Silk stockings is always, is always wanted so I went into this lady’s shop and the two young assistants bustled me out, ‘No. No. No. No.’ Spanish men never went in to women’s shops. In fact, the ambassador said to me, he said, ‘Whatever you do,’ well not the ambassador but his representative, ‘Whatever you do,’ he said, ‘Don’t stare at the women and don’t wink at the women,’ you know. Don’t do any. ‘Don’t attract attention at all. Just keep a low profile because there’s quite a lot of people don’t like the British in here.’ In one case what actually happened Franco I think was coming up by train and they made sure I stayed in the hotel that day. Didn’t go outside the hotel. But getting back to the shop, these two assistants tried to shove me out and I said, ‘No. No. No, Senorita. Stockings,’ and there was a glass female leg on the counter with a stocking on it and I said, ‘This is what I want.’ And, ‘No. No.’ They, they weren’t having anything of it. And then an old assistant, she’d be in her forties I should think she came out and she said, ‘Inglesi?’. And I said, ‘Si Si. Inglesi.’ And she must have said something to the girls about these Englishmen are all mad or something because the girls started giggling and the old lady got me the stockings that I wanted, I wanted out. So, so that then from, from Madrid, I went down right to the south. A place called La Linea and there was the border to crossing to go to Gibraltar and it was just a case of jumping on a bus and going across the crossing and I, on this side there was, there was Spanish soldiers armed to the teeth. They were everywhere. Soldiers. And I got on the bus and crossed over. When I got out of the bus at the other side there was a kilted Scotsman with a rifle and a fixed bayonet and I said, I said, ‘There’s a whole platoon of Spanish soldiers over there.’ And he said, ‘Oh, I’m up to that. I’m up to that,’ he said [laughs]. Anyhow, Gibraltar. I got, I got kitted out again in uniform and I had this little kit bag where I had all my, all my loot in there. All the thingamybobs. And I got priority to fly back to England and I’m, I’m in this Dakota with several high-ranking officers and such forth. Probably wondered what is this fella coming on here for? We eventually got to Whitchurch I think it was. Near Bristol, and I’m going through the customs and one of the customs officers said, ‘What are have you, what are you doing amongst this, all this high brass?’ And I said, ‘Oh, I’m an escaped prisoner of war.’ He said, ‘Oh, is that right?’ and he put a big chalk on my bag and I walked through without any inspections at all and the others had to open their bags and be inspected. And I had more loot than all those put together, I think. Anyhow, as I get through the customs there were a couple of nice gentlemen waiting for me and they said, ‘Oh, we’re escorting you back to London.’ I said, ‘Can’t I send a message home telling them — ’ ‘No. No. No. No. You can do all that after you’ve been to London.’ Now, my mother had never heard a word from me from that day until I landed in Gibraltar and she hadn’t a clue if I was alive or not so you must, you can see what she must have been going through. Her and dad. And I got, we got to London. I think it was MI6 or MI5 I forget what they were and they interrogated me. Wanted to know, you know questions like, ‘What’s the name of the cinema in your home town?’ You know, just general intelligence questions. Well, of course I sailed through those questions and I, I had to report to a WAAF officer and she said to me, ‘Alright,’ she said, I’m, I’m the pay. I’ve got to give you the pay for, when were you last paid?’ And I said, ‘Thirteen weeks ago.’ I didn’t tell her I’d been to told the fella in Hull it was thirteen weeks. Thirteen. ‘Oh, you haven’t.’ ‘No. No.’ So, she worked out what thirteen weeks pay was and this, that and the other and then she said to me, ‘And did you lose your wristwatch?’ And I said, ‘No. No. We didn’t carry wristwatches. Only the navigator.’ And she said, ‘Oh, I’m sure you must have had a wristwatch so we’ll put ten pounds down there. And what about shoes?’ I said, ‘No. No. We had flying boots. Didn’t wear shoes.’ And she was quite right in one respect. She said, ‘Weren’t you told to take a pair of shoes with you when you wore suede boots because of the walking?’ And I said, ‘Oh yeah, but I never did.’ ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘We’d better put something down for a pair.’ And she boosted my pay up by another fifteen pounds which I thought was very nice of her. And I went home. I went home for three weeks. Three weeks leave. And when I reported back again there was no counselling in those days but I did have to go and have a talk with, we used to call them trick cyclists but I think it was [laughs] trick cyclists we called them. And I had to go and have a talk with him and I thought it was a bit odd. Anyhow, the next thing I was, I was posted to, back to St Athans on a refresher course. So, I thought well that’s quite good so I went back to St Athans on the refresher course and I’d only been back about three or four weeks when I got posted to a Mosquito training unit of all things. I hadn’t a clue what I was doing there and I reported to the officer I had in the Training Command and he said to me, ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘We asked for someone to come up. These pilots have all been flying Beaufighters. Radial engines, and we needed someone to tell them about inline. The Merlin 21 engine. So, we’ve asked for an instructor.’ And I said, ‘I’ve never instructed in my life.’ You know. ‘Oh. Well, you know about Merlin engines.’ I said, ‘Well, yeah.’ ‘And we’ve got the charts to hang on the walls so it’s just a case of pointing out.’ And I soon learned that these fellas, they didn’t want to ask any questions. All they wanted to do was get flying so they never asked any awkward questions. Quite the opposite. If they saw me in the local village pub they’d buy me free beer. And, and I was a flight sergeant and some of these blokes were flight lieutenants with decorations. DFM and that. But the officer in the training said, ‘As soon as you put that white jacket on you’re the boss in that classroom.’ So, from me being very hesitant it turned out to be quite a cushy number. But I made the fatal mistake in criticising some of the way things were done which I shouldn’t have done. But in those, I mean I’m an ex-flying man. I’m ex-Bomber Command. These are only training bods, you know. So, I felt a bit superior to them which proved my undoing because it got back to the officer in charge and he said, ‘Well, if you don’t like the way we do things, Cammish,’ He said, ‘We can soon fix that.’ So, from Shropshire I was posted up to Inverness. Right in the north of Scotland and they said [laughs] I got there, it was a Coastal Command station, they didn’t know why I was doing there. What I had come from. They hadn’t flown for several days because of the icy conditions. So here was me stuck up in this Coastal Command station for about two weeks before somebody thought we’d better get rid of him again. So, I went from there down to [pause] from the north of Scotland I went down to South Cerney in Gloucester which was very nice. And then they decided that I really should go on a flying control course. I weren’t doing engineering any more. So, I went from South Cerney to Charmy Down near Bath to train on a, on a flying control course which I did and that’s where I met my dear wife. We were married in Bath Abbey and had a happy fifty five years of married life. But getting back to that, I’m at Charmy Down and we did the flying control course and what we finished up doing was as the Americans were leaving the country we, we were a skeleton crew that had to go and shut down the station. No aircraft were allowed to fly. You know. And that was a very cushy number too. We, there was about sixty of us and we put down rations for about a hundred and sixty so we were fed well. In fact, the last, the last few months in the, in the Royal Air Force was very, very relaxing for me. Very relaxing. I went from flying control to Snaith in South Yorkshire. And that was another funny thing. When I was stationed in Bath, in Charmy Down they asked me where I’d like to be stationed and the old trick is you put the opposite side of the country because that’s where they’ll point you to. But this time they got it right. I asked to go to Yorkshire and I got posted to Yorkshire and here I had to leave the wife in Bath. So that was a big boo boo, but never mind. I was at, I was at Snaith for several, several weeks and then I went to Dishforth and Dishforth was the last port of call. That was the last station I was on before I was demobbed. And at Dishforth the, of course the, your record, my records anyhow never caught up with me on the station. They were always one or two stations behind and at Dishforth you had to wait for your records to catch you up. And some of the fellas that were getting ready for demob were called in to the Pay Accounts and they came back saying, ‘They want another five pounds for mess.’ And this that and the other. Crumbs. You know. And I’m thinking blimey what’s going to happen to me? I’ve been claiming thirteen weeks pay in Spain, thirteen weeks pay in London [laughs] And, and with shifting so quickly as I say they just used to say to you, ‘What’s your rate of pay?’ Well, I was getting fifteen and six pence you know. Which was, which was good money and they’d work it out and say, ‘Well, we owe you this.’ And righto. I thought, blimey. I thought when I go up to Pay Records they’re going to say to me, ‘Mr Cammish,’ Well, I was a warrant officer then, ‘Warrant Officer Cammish, we’ve got three thirteen weeks pay [laughs] pay you owe us.’ And anyhow, I went. I went in to the Pay Section and of course when I went into the Pay Section and of course when I went missing there was a line drawn across my record, you know. And then there was another line when I come back again. And that had them bluffed a little bit and, well he said, ‘You just about, we owe you so much money by all accounts.’ And I said, ‘Oh, is that right?’ Yeah. So here I am, all those three thirteen weeks pay and I don’t owe them any money. So, I thought, well that’s great. So, I sailed down to Wembley and got my [pause] oh no. That’s right, before I left, before I left, one of the stations the commanding officer said, ‘Well, we spent a lot of money training you. You’d, you’d like to stay on the Air Force, wouldn’t you?’ And I said, ‘No. Not really.’ He said, ‘Well, I’ll guarantee you’ll only drop two ranks and then you’ll, you’ll — ’ and I said, ‘No.’ And he said, ‘You’ve made up your mind.’ It was so nice at the start but when I kept saying no his voice definitely turned nasty and he said, ‘Alright then. Clear off.’ And I said, but some, some of the fellas I knew, especially one, he was a warrant officer gunner, air gunner and he fell for this malarky that he wouldn’t drop because he wanted to fly. He loved flying. And I said, and I found out he never flew again. They put him in the Air Force Regiment. That’s like the ground crew, you know and he never flew again and he couldn’t get out of the Air Force quick enough after the war. But I wanted to, I wanted to get back to civvy life. The old bullshit was coming back. Fifty yards before headquarters you marched to attention and fifty yards after and all the rocks around the blinking place was going to be painted white and, and of course the, the regulars which, which put up with us at the start of the war started getting the better of us in the finish so life wasn’t very nice. So, I got out. Got back into Civvy Street. Got back in to the building trade. Didn’t like the way things were in England at the time so I emigrated to New Zealand in ’56 and I’ve been here ever since. I’m ninety four years of age and I’ve never regretted a day coming to New Zealand. That’s it.

Citation

Jennifer Barraclough, “Interview with Harrison Stanley Cammish,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed November 27, 2022, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/10731.

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